Student organizations discuss funding, university focuses

About 200 members from VCU’s Monroe Park campus’ student organizations gathered in the University Student Commons Wednesday, Dec. 2 to discuss the university budget, green initiative and several upcoming events in the spring of 2010. The final Student Government Association’s Presidential Roundtable discussion addressed issues with student organization funding and its connections with the university budget cuts.

Senior Vice President for VCU Finance and Administration John Bennett said the core problem regarding university funding lies in the instructional budget known as the Education and General or E&G. “The state contributes to the core instructional activities, which is the education but also the administration and maintaining (the) physical plant,” Bennett said. “The state doesn’t contribute to residence halls, dining, athletics or research, so when we talk about money cut from the state we generally talk about the ENG activity.”

According to Bennett, an additional $13.4 million in state support will be cut from the 2010 budget. Most of that is going to come from leaving positions vacant, deferring travel and deferring equipment purchases, but there are probably going to be some lay-offs. Recently, VCU eliminated 91 jobs. Bennett said the university has managed to keep tuition low and still provide high-cost majors, whereas other Virginia state universities have either hiked up tuition rates or cut educational programs. “We’re going to cut out some programs or raise tuition,” Bennett said. “When the stimulus money goes away, state revenue is not going to (cover the university budget costs).”

Bennett said eliminating programs will take time and students will have a voice in the university’s future financial plans. Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students Reuban Rodriguez said he encourages students to talk with the SGA and voice any concerns. SGA Vice President Roberto Celis introduced the university’s green initiative as another key priority. Celis said students, faculty and staff will have to make a behavioral change in order to reach the goals laid out in the President’s Climate Commitment.

Grant Matthews, a representative for the VCU Office of Sustainability, said the overall goal is to develop a climate action plan that will promote energy conservation and new projects. Matthews said over the next 41 years, VCU should reach carbon neutrality. Other student organizations that presented during the discussion included La Milpa (a Guatemala interest group) the Intercultural Festival, Yoga Education Student Organization and the Office for Student Organization Development.

SGA President Gabriel Walker concluded the discussion and said although roundtable discussion are no longer mandatory, he hopes a majority of the student organization members will continue to attend. Walker said the SGA plans to have more dialogue with university administration figures in the future.

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